Argue with Andrew Sullivan this time

baby angelOK, consider this a short update on our comments-page arguments about whether public debates about abortion are, in and of themselves, a “religious” matter.

It’s poignant to watch this debate, and others linked to it, lived out in real life and covered in the news stories that result.

In this case, don’t yell at me — yell at Andrew Sullivan. It is clear to me (at least) that he has spotted a religion ghost — ethical ghost? moral ghost? — in a New York Times piece about abortion.

Or is it about abortion? That’s the point. Here is the item on Sullivan’s Time blog:

The Culling Continues
09 Jan 2007 11:57 am

Today’s NYT piece on doctors’ urging more comprehensive testing for Down Syndrome fetuses omits one obvious fact: the reason for such testing. Which is to kill them in utero, of course. Why leave this out? Isn’t it the crux of the story? And no mention of the 90 percent figure for abortions after DS detection. Do the NYT’s editors believe readers cannot handle the truth?

This follows another Sullivan post on the same topic and, ultimately, for this voice on the gay-activist side of the Catholic church aisle, leads to another topic looming in the background — the possible abortion of unborn gay children at some point in the medical future. Sullivan recently aired his views on that topic in one of his essays for The Times of London.

Does this sound like a far-fetched idea to you?

I’ve been asking questions about this possible link between the two hottest of hot social issues since the mid-1980s, when I raised it during a press conference in Denver with then-Democratic Rep. Patricia Schroeder. I asked her if, in the future, she expected to see scientific evidence that people are born gay. She said that she did. I then asked if she thought this implied there would be a gay gene that, sooner or later, would show up in prenatal testing. She said she assumed that this would happen. So I asked her if she would, at that time, oppose the abortion of gay fetuses. She did not want to answer that question and one of her staff rushed over to say that they would have to deal with that when the time came.

Sullivan thinks that issue is coming sooner or later (while I think the nature-nurture debate will be much harder to settle) and that we can see evidence of the outcome in the Down Syndrome trends. If he is right, that is a huge story and one that, when the story breaks, will be debated in strongly religious terms. Sullivan and the pope will be on the same side of that debate, correct?

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Tony Shalhoub, generic Arab American

1monkmanholeYou can’t be a member of an Antiochian Orthodox Christian parish for very long — at least not one with strong ethnic roots — without learning that it isn’t easy to turn Arab names into names written in English.

Just because one person’s last name is spelled “Chalhoub” and someone else’s name is spelled “Shalhob” doesn’t mean that they are not related. It may simply mean that an English-speaking bureaucrat wrote the name down differently when their common ancestors arrived from Lebanon, Syria or some other corner of the Middle East in which Christians are persecuted to the point that they elect to flee.

I thought about this while reading the recent Los Angeles Times profile by Lynn Smith of cable-television superstar Tony Shalhoub, who is best known for his work as the obsessive-compulsive detective Adrian Monk.

It’s a good piece, on the surface. The key is that Shalhoub doesn’t look, well, right. He doesn’t look American. He looks like he is from somewhere else and this makes him a bit of a mystery man. Here is how the story opens:

Before Tony Shalhoub broke through as the obsessive-compulsive detective Monk, the Lebanese American actor had compiled a long list of supporting characters with widely diverse names: Haddad (“The Siege”), Kwan (“Galaxy Quest”), Scarpacci (“Wings”), Reyes (“Primary Colors”) and Riedenschneider (“The Man Who Wasn’t There”). Now it’s the talent, not the ethnic look, that people notice. This year, he has again been nominated for a Golden Globe, and he won his third Emmy for “Monk,” USA Network’s highest-rated show, which will start Season 5 1/2 in January.

Lately, Shalhoub, 53, has been adding to his resume not only as an actor but also as a producer and advocate, reaching back to his Arab American roots. One of his projects, an upcoming independent film called “American East,” tells about ordinary Arab Americans in Los Angeles whose everyday lives and plans have been altered by 9/11.

Personally, I am fond of Shalhoub’s turn as a Russian literature professor-turned-American-janitor in the family flick Paulie, but that’s a long story (“I am Russian. I like long stories”). But I digress.

What hit me was the crucial fact that Shalhoub is “Arab American” and that this fact has complicated his life post-9/11.

I can understand that, at least to a tiny degree. I know some Shalhoubs, Chaloubs and Chalhobs because my family was active in an overwhelmingly Arab parish in South Florida at the time of 9/11 and I can remember the rip-tide effect that event had in many of their lives.

060202 altTV vmed 12p widecArab Christians are pulled in many different directions, when it comes to their beliefs and emotions about events in the Middle East. It is hard to put all of that into words, when planes start flying into buildings and a few thug kids start taking that out on your grandchildren in suburban American playgrounds, even though these young Arab Christians are wearing little gold baptism crosses around their necks.

That was part of the “Arab America” experience, too — a complicated part of it. Yet what percentage of the readers of this feature story, do you think, equated “Arab American” with “Muslim”? But what kind of Arab American is Shalhoub? Generic?

Later in the story we do find a few details of Shaloub’s family background, which one would think would be a crucial element of this searching-for-his-roots profile. We are told:

Shalhoub was “No. 9″ in a family of 10 children whose father emigrated from Lebanon at age 10, and whose mother was a second-generation Lebanese American. He was raised in Green Bay, Wis., where his father ran a sausage company from a truck. … Every summer, the family gathers in Wisconsin for a vacation.

Shalhoub was raised as a Christian; he doesn’t speak Arabic.

Was “raised” as a Christian? Does that mean he no longer is a Christian? Has he become a Muslim? Is he, well, totally secular now? Has he converted to some other faith? Has this affected his life, work and beliefs?

I am not saying that this needs to be a major part of the story. I am saying that when you write that a talented, famous “Arab American” man is trying to come to terms with his ethnic roots and that his life has been complicated by 9/11, it might be nice to know a bit more about who he is.

Not all Arab Americans have the same roots. The mystery of Tony Shaloub might be a bit more complex than the one sketched by the Los Angeles Times. This was a missed opportunity.

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Why does God forgive dirty players?

Albert Haynesworth This weekend marks the beginning of the best two weeks of football of the year. As a native Hoosier, I’m hoping for the Indianapolis Colts to defeat the Kansas City Chiefs, go into Baltimore and defeat the Ravens and extend the fun into the third week by defeating the New England Patriots and going to the Super Bowl. Now that would be ironic, and don’t we love irony around here?

And then maybe Islamic radicals will lay down their weapons and agree to live peacefully with the West.

The ESPN television network is usually very thorough in fleshing out the religion ghosts in sports stories. Especially football stories. But in writing about the latest NFL bad boy, Albert Haynesworth, ESPN The Magazine left a religion gap the size of the hole in the Indianapolis Colts’ run defense.

If you’ve followed the NFL this year, you know who and what we’re talking about. Haynesworth, a defensive tackle, dropped his cleated foot down on an opponent’s unprotected head, twice, on Oct. 1, 2006. He received a five-game suspension for what he says was an incident of losing his temper.

It’s a fascinating piece. Those familiar with football will learn a thing or two about the rigors of being in the trenches of the NFL. One may even feel a morsel of sympathy of Haynesworth, but no one is asking that the 320-pound athlete be excused for his despicable actions.

What caught my eye was a section dealing with an incident with Patriots safety Rodney Harrison, who is one of the most legendary NFL bad boys these days:

The rogues who are paid millions for their brutish talents understand; they can relate to each other’s struggle to be violent on the field and virtuous off of it. That’s why Haynesworth says one of the “greatest deals of this whole thing” came not from [therapist Sheila] Peters or [former player Chuck] Smith or even from Stephanie [his wife]. It came in October at an Atlanta Waffle House, where Haynesworth and Smith were eating. A Lamborghini rolled up, and out walked Patriots safety Rodney Harrison, a renowned hard hitter and one of the most fined players in the NFL. Haynesworth rose to introduce himself, and Harrison broke into a warm grin before saying, “Oh yeah, I know who you are.” As they ate lunch, Harrison told Haynesworth that everybody makes mistakes, to ask God for forgiveness and to keep playing.

Did that last sentence make your jaw drop, or what?

Why the tiny God role in this piece? There has to be more to the story than just that. It’s not the crux of the story, but the next sports reporter who gets a chance to ask Harrison a question should explore this matter with him.

What is the basis for Harrison’s belief that God will forgive players when they do something wrong? And is “play on” the proper next step? Haynesworth’s back-story would tell you that he does not agree. He declined an opportunity to challenge the league’s five-game suspension.

Apparently there’s room for punishment in Haynesworth’s theology.

Apologies for my earlier confusion and incorrect hypothesis on how the Colts could arrive at the Super Bowl. It has been corrected.

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Ford’s quiet faith was just wonderful

gerald ford funeral processionThe passing of Gerald Ford, the 38th president of the United States, brings us the usual slate of obituaries about the man who led the country after the scandalized President Richard Nixon resigned. Some of the articles break new ground and are affecting current debates — think The Washington Post‘s Bob Woodward — while others are there just as historical reminders and are great for those of us too young (or still unborn during the 1970s) to remember Ford’s presidency or public life.

In terms of religion news connected to the Ford story, little new dribbled out as far as I can tell. But what was published — the fact that Ford had a quiet faith — is interesting because of what it says about those who are writing the articles. These pieces weren’t written 20 years ago. They weren’t written by reporters with nothing to do. They were written with current events and a current cast of characters in mind.

You get some interesting results.

Take, for instance, Newsweek editor Jon Meacham’s Washington Post column on the quiet faith of Ford. Meacham draws out the religious aspects in his speech explaining his pardon of Nixon and then tells us all to emulate Ford:

Then Ford explicitly spoke of the “higher power” he had mentioned when he was sworn in. “The Constitution is the supreme law of our land, and it governs our actions as citizens. Only the laws of God, which govern our consciences, are superior to it.” In a New Testament allusion (“Then Peter opened his mouth, and said, Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons: But in every nation he that feareth Him, and worketh righteousness, is accepted with Him”), Ford said: “I deeply believe in equal justice for all Americans, whatever their station or former station. The law, whether human or divine, is no respecter of persons; but the law is a respecter of reality.” The reality, Ford thought, was that a trial of the former president would most likely be unfair, drawn out and destructive. And finally: “I do believe, with all my heart and mind and spirit, that I, not as president but as a humble servant of God, will receive justice without mercy if I fail to show mercy.”

This is an extraordinary thing to say: Ford was linking his own fate beyond time to his actions within time. The idea that God punishes or rewards us, individually or collectively, for what we do on Earth, either in our own lives or in the life of the nation, is rooted in the American story.

. . . In his quiet way, Gerald Ford used that pulpit more than most, and his essential message — of forgiveness and grace — is one worth remembering today, and in years to come.

Thanks for the Sunday-school lesson, Pastor Meacham. I hope the Newsweek editorial staff was listening. God will punish those who do bad things on earth and greatly reward those who do well. And that’s the American way, according to the Rev. Meacham.

Did it ever cross the minds of the people at The Washington Post Company, which owns Newsweek, that value judgments made by senior editors are not exactly in the best tradition of unbiased reporting?

Meacham has done tremendous work uncovering the history of religion in public life. His American Gospel: God, the Founding Fathers, and the Making of a Nation is a great read about our nation’s history of religion in politics.

But when does a journalist go from fact-gatherer to making value judgments that amount to the lesson of the day?

For an example of quality journalism relating to the religious life of President Ford, check out this Time piece by Nancy Gibbs and Michael Duffy. Much of the information in the piece is historical, but by interviewing one of Ford’s closest friends, gospel-film executive Billy Zeoli, the reporters are able to expand our knowledge and not simply regurgitate information and attach an opinion at the end.

Much of the piece focuses on Ford’s decision not to publicize his faith and his acts to eliminate the blatant attempts by Nixon to use religion to advance his political career, but I found this paragraph most interesting:

When Ford became Vice President in the fall of 1973, Zeoli began sending him a weekly devotional memo that would be waiting on Ford’s desk on Monday mornings. It always had the same title — “God’s Got a Better Idea” — and began with scripture (always from the King James version, Ford’s preferred translation) and ended with a prayer. Zeoli sent 146 devotionals in all, every week through Ford’s presidency. “Not only were they profound in their meaning and judicious in their selection,” Ford said, “I believe they were also divinely inspired.” Beyond the memos, Zeoli and Ford would meet privately every four or five weeks for prayer and Bible study. Their conversations took place either in the Oval Office or the family quarters upstairs.

Ford considered the devotionals “divinely inspired”? Now that’s a topic for conversation. Divinely inspired as in they-should-be-attached-to-the-Bible inspired? By the way, what was Ford’s view on biblical inspiration?

Photo courtesy of my finance Noelle Myers, a federal employee in Washington who had the day off thanks to Ford’s funeral and was so kind to take photos of the motorcade Monday morning.

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Democrats seeking God pros

OneNationunderGodCROSSIt’s an old, old situation linked to Christian faith and politics.

People on the right side of the church aisle are accused of taking the Bible very literally when it comes to sex and salvation. People on the left side of the church aisle prefer to take the Bible literally on issues of social justice and the poor.

The reality, of course, is that Christianity has long offered rock-ribbed teachings on both sides of this equation. Sex outside of marriage? Sin. Ignoring the needs of the poor and the weak? Sin. The real debates, of course, are about how best to involve government in these issues.

So it’s no surprise that the Religious Right taught Republicans how to talk the talk on moral issues. And it’s no surprise that, at times, President George W. Bush tried to expand that message by learning to talk the talk on “compassionate conservatism” issues as well as those edgy wedge issues on sex and marriage.

And now it’s no surprise that Democrats are turning to Bible-friendly consultants to learn how to add some faith-based language on issues of economics, the environment, peace, justice, etc. And it isn’t a big surprise that Democrats are also trying to find a way to use different language on abortion and sexuality, even if there are no signs of compromises yet on the legislative front.

Bush tried to talk differently about poverty.

Democrats are now seeking a way to talk differently about moral values.

Journalists, of course, will have to cover all of this talk, talk, talk.

At the moment, the hot topic is the work of the new faith-based consultants — especially the liberal evangelical activist Mara Vanderslice and her Common Good Strategies consulting firm. Visit the firm’s website and you’ll find all kinds of mainstream coverage, but the recent David D. Kirkpatrick piece in The New York Times hits all the big themes:

Democratic officials in several states said Ms. Vanderslice and her business partner, Eric Sapp, pushed sometimes reluctant Democrats to speak publicly, early and in detail about the religious underpinnings of their policy views. They persuaded candidates to speak at conservative religious schools and to buy early commercials on Christian radio. They organized meetings and conference calls for candidates to speak privately with moderate and conservative members of the clergy.

In Michigan, they helped the state’s Democratic Party follow up on these meetings by incorporating recognizably biblical language into its platform. In Michigan and Ohio, they enlisted nuns in phone banks to urge voters who were Catholic or opposed abortion rights to support Democratic candidates, with some of the nuns saying they were making the case in religious terms.

0443The nuns are a nice detail, don’t you think?

In other words, the key is to find left-of-center evangelicals who are fond of moral nuances on sexuality and Catholic progressives who feel the same way. This is not a big shock.

So if you want to find people who lean left, speak softly on issues of sexual morality, yet continue to embrace the name “evangelical,” where would one look? How about the Sojourners community? Sure enough, that is where Vanderslice feels at home.

But first, she grew up in a liberal, secular mecca — the people’s republic of Boulder, Colo. — before finding God.

She joined an evangelical Bible study group at Earlham College, a Quaker campus in Richmond, Ind., and says she was born again one day while singing the hymn “Here I Am Lord.”

“God’s love was so much stronger than any of my doubts,” she said, acknowledging that like some other young evangelicals she still struggles with common evangelical ideas about abortion, homosexuality and the literal reading of Scripture.

She was baptized by full immersion in Rock Creek in Washington, D.C., while working with Sojourners, an evangelical antipoverty group. She entered politics by working with a group advocating debt relief for the developing world, once participating in a rally organized by a coalition that included the AIDS activist group Act Up.

Once again, there is nothing surprising here.

Note, however, the use of the softening phrase “common evangelical ideas” on issues of sexuality, when the points being debated have nothing to do with evangelicalism — but are conflicts centering on 2,000 years of unbroken Christian teachings in the East and, until very recently, all of the churches of the West.

And what about that “literal reading of Scripture” thing? Oh well, we are back into the same old divide, aren’t we?

This is an important story, but it’s also an old, old story and utterly predictable. The only real news is that the religious left is developing a more articulate evangelical wing.

But the hard issues will not go away, a fact that is obvious in this section of Kirkpatrick’s report about the work of Sapp and Vanderslice:

They persuaded candidates not to avoid controversial subjects like abortion, advising those who supported abortion rights to speak about reducing demand for the procedure. And they cautioned against the approach of many liberal Christians, which is to argue that Jesus was interested only in social justice and not in sexual morality.

“The Gospel has both in it,” Mr. Sapp said. “You can’t act like caring about abortion and family issues makes you a judgmental fool.”

Amen. That’s the heart of the story right there.

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Saddam’s Koran moment

saddam and the koranWhat is the significance of Saddam Hussein holding a Koran as he headed to the gallows Saturday morning? It’s not the first time a brutal tyrant reached for religious symbols as the people he formerly ruled sent him to his Creator. And it won’t be the last. The job of the journalist is to tell us what it means and how the Iraqi people perceived the symbol.

First off, notice how a Reuters article placed the Koran in the lead and the Times of India website placed it in the headline:

Clutching a Koran and refusing a hood, Saddam Hussein was hanged at dawn on Saturday. It was a dramatic, violent end for a dictator who ruled Iraq for three decades before he was toppled by a US-led invasion in 2003.

Note the Koran’s treatment by the Associated Press in the sixth paragraph:

His jet black hair was carefully combed, his salt-and-pepper beard neatly clipped. He carried a Koran.

Is the Koran a mere detail to be added along with the (dyed) color of his hair? What message is Saddam trying to send? Is it wrong of me to suggest that perhaps the Butcher of Baghdad, despised by so many for his secularism, had something of a reconversion to Islam before he was executed?

The more likely story is that Saddam, recognizing like Charles I that people would scrutinize his final actions, wanted to send some sort of message. But what message did he want to send and what message did the Iraqi people and Arab Muslims at large receive?

These are just a few questions that I’m hoping are answered in the coming weeks as we watch the fallout of the execution of one of the world’s most brutal dictators.

I thought it was interesting that The Washington Post did not mention the Koran until about 30 paragraphs into its magnificently detailed account of the execution:

Hussein carried a dark green Koran in his clasped hands, witnesses said. At the steps to the gallows, he turned to [prosecutor Munqith al-Faroun] and asked him to give the book to the son of his co-defendant Awad Haman Bander. Bander, like Hussein, was sentenced to death for the killings of 148 Shiite men and boys from the northern town of Dujail.

“What if I don’t see him?” Faroun asked.

“Keep it until you meet with any of my family members,” Faroun recalled Hussein saying.

The significance of the Koran, or lack thereof, is a story in and of itself. But it’s only the surface story. The deeper story is Saddam’s spiritual state as he headed to the gallows. The clutched Koran is a good place to start.

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What a bizarre little semi-story

family ordinationWant to see a truly bizarre little news story?

Want to see a major missed opportunity to show a key scene in what simply has to have been a complex and rich human drama?

OK, then read the report by E. Richard Walton in The Greenville (S.C.) News that ran with this “duh” headline: “Priest ordained in two-hour ceremony.” Oh, what the heck, here is the story itself — since it is so short. Ready?

Dwight Joseph Longenecker, a lay pastor at St. Joseph Catholic School in Greenville who has served the Church of England, was ordained a priest Thursday night [Dec. 14] in front of a capacity crowd at St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Greenville.

The two-hour ordination was performed by the Most Rev. Robert J. Baker, bishop of Charleston.

Michael Phillip, a member of St. Mary’s Church, said, “It’s a special event.”

The Rev. Longenecker’s first act as priest was to bless Bishop Baker. Longenecker said in a written statement that he thanked his parents for raising him in a Christian home. He said, “I thank God for the Christian faith of my mother and father, and for the long heritage of devout Protestant Christianity in which my family is rooted.”

He added, “My journey to the Catholic priesthood has been a long and wonderful adventure. I do not consider my Catholic faith to be a rejection of the past, but a fulfillment of all that has gone before.”

Baker said the new priest will continue his role at St. Joseph’s.

Methinks there is more to this story and, hurrah, you can go to Longenecker’s homepage and blog and see some of the missed details.

That Protestant background? This man is a graduate of Bob Jones University, the world-famous fundamentalist Christian campus that has caused a few media storms in the past with its views on Roman Catholicism. Oh, and Bob Jones University is located where? That would be Greenville, S.C.

But there is more to this very interesting non-story. This man has also studied at Oxford University and spent some time in Cambridge, England, as well. He has served as an Anglican priest. He is married and has four children.

So what did this story need to get some serious attention in a Gannett newsroom in the same zip code as this rather symbolic ordination service? Don’t tell me that the editors avoid covering stories linking Bob Jones and Rome? You just know there were people in town who pitched this story to the newspaper over and over again.

Hat tip to Amy at Open Book.

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Revenge of the Promise Keepers

manliness alphabetWe here at GetReligion typically like just about everything the Los Angeles Times’ Stephanie Simon writes. She thrives on writing highly descriptive narratives that manage to touch on all sorts of issues, usually with religious themes. For instance, her piece on abortion still sticks in my mind and is a must read for journalists covering the subject.

That said, an article by Jenny Jarvie and Simon on manliness in Christianity missed a couple of aspects that would have painted a more complete picture. As a regular church-attending man, I appreciate that this subject is being addressed in a national newspaper. The concept of the article is relatively simple: men are disappearing from church and some people think they have the answer.

More than 60 percent of the adults in church these days are women, which, as pointed out by one of the article’s sources, means there are 13 million more women than men worshiping God on Sunday mornings. The theme of the article, as discussed by multiple sources, is “Houston, we have a problem.”

While I have a couple of issues with the article’s content, it is a wonderfully written piece full of delightful details and fun-to-read vignettes, such as the lede:

The strobe lights pulse and the air vibrates to a killer rock beat. Giant screens show mayhem and gross-out pranks: a car wreck, a sucker punch, a flabby (and naked) rear end, sealed with duct tape.

Brad Stine runs onstage in ripped blue jeans, his shirt untucked, his long hair shaggy. He’s a stand-up comic by trade, but he’s here today as an evangelist, on a mission to build up a new Christian man — one profanity at a time. “It’s the wuss-ification of America that’s getting us!” screeches Stine, 46.

A moment later he adds a fervent: “Thank you, Lord, for our testosterone!”

promise keepersThe first question I felt the authors failed to address is why and how American Christianity became this way. Where have all the men gone, and why? It’s established in the article that churches these days are more feminine — everything from the decor to the hymns — but is that because the church has become intentionally more feminine or because the men have left for other reasons and femininity has filled the gap?

Since I can think of about a dozen different variations on these questions, maybe it’s time for a follow-up article?

Second, while the disappearing men is a well-established trend and it is made clear in the article, little effort was made to tell us if this attempt to inject more manliness into Christianity is a resurgence or just a handful of men trying to apply their view of things on whoever will listen.

In other words, have the efforts of these Manly Christians brought more men to Christianity? John Eldredge’s book Wild At Heart has been around since at least I was a sophomore in college. Has that bestseller made a difference in the gender-pew gap?

That all said, the article is incredibly insightful at times. A few doubters are quoted, as well as a couple of examples that some would say are taking the Man Doctrine a bit too far. All in all, it’s a pretty straightforward balanced picture of the movement, if you can call it that.

For an example of the insightful, take the following word picture:

The 200 men in the crowd clap stiffly. Stine races through a frenetic stand-up routine, drawing laughs with his rants against liberals, atheists and the politically correct. Then Christian radio host Paul Coughlin, author of “No More Christian Nice Guy,” takes the stage. His backdrop: a series of wanted posters featuring one Jesus of Nazareth.

“Jesus was a very bad Christian,” Coughlin declares. After all, he says, the Son of God trashed a temple and even used profanity — or the New Testament equivalent — when he called Herod “that fox.”

“The idea of Jesus as meek and mild is as fictitious as anything in Dan Brown’s ‘Da Vinci Code,’” says Coughlin, 40.

So what’s with the standard portraits of Jesus: pale face, beatific smile, lapful of lambs?

manlinessThat last graph is, like, wow. With a simple sentence Simon and Jarvie subtly threaten to turn the GodMen concept on its head. And if I’m reading it right, the headline — “Manliness is next to godliness” — has the same subtle message.

Simon and Jarvie are also on to something in one of their final observations:

The ironic bit about all this rough-and-tumble manliness is that it often leads to what can only be described as touchy-feely moments.

Eldredge runs “soul-searching” wilderness retreats in Colorado that prompt men to bare their innermost needs. Men’s Fraternity gets guys talking about their psychological “wounds” and encourages them to ask their dads: Do you love me? Are you proud of me? BattleZone Ministries, based in Clovis, Calif., has posted an online video on how to pray for a man without freaking him out — but its recommended approach still involves guys laying hands on their buddy.

As a man, I appreciate that observation from Simon and Jarvie. I would also like to say, though, that there is nothing ironic about “rough-and-tumble” men wanting to find ways to dig deep into their souls. Could the perception that those are somehow mutually exclusive be a reason churches are losing their men?

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